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  The Delaware Museum of Natural History Renovation & Addition, Page 22The Delaware Museum of Natural History Renovation & Addition

715 N. Orange Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

110 S. Poplar Street, #400, Wilmington, DE 19801

Wilmington, Delaware
Total Square Feet: 70,131
Construction Period: Jan 2004 to May 2005

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: O'Donnell Naccarato & MacIntosh - 300 Delaware Avenue, #820, Wilmington, DE 19801
ELECTRICAL & MECHANICAL ENGINEER: Mueller Associates, Inc. - 1401 S. Edgewood Street, Baltimore, MD 21227

In 2003, the Delaware Museum of Natural History hired EDiS as their Construction Manager for their largest construction project since its opening in 1969. In order to brighten and modernize the previously described vault like structure, BSA+A Architects designed a new entrance that dramatically changed the exterior facade. Also an interior was developed that included adding 15 new windows, where previously solid walls stood as well as a vaulted ceiling that extends over 25 feet up to the new 40 square feet skylight. In addition to the dramatic architectural features, a renovation of the mechanical systems was required in order to maintain the best and rarest exhibits that routinely are on loan and on display in the Museum from such prestigious institutions as The Smithsonian.

From the beginning, it was understood this was going to be a very difficult project. A Museum of any kind is a departure from the normal means and methods used in traditional construction. However, a renovation to a building, housing the world's second largest bird egg collection and one of the top ten world's largest mollusk collections would be expectedly difficult to complete.

EDiS met with all of the curators of the different divisions to coordinate the relocation of millions of specimens and derived a four phased renovation plan consisting of a new Educational area, new elevator, state-of-the-art Traveling Exhibit's wing and the renovation and addition to the entry vestibule areas.

The first and most important action taken on this project was to design a hard partition system that could maintain the dust and noise protection to allow the Museum's workers to continue working throughout the construction. EDiS completed this by installing insulated, sealed with poly, plywood partitions with statically charged walk off areas to minimize any dust. These were installed so that the workers could complete all their work but minimized any lay down areas so that the Museum could maintain as many artifacts in the same areas as possible. Numerous on site meetings were held with staff to redefine these areas as their needs changed and construction progressed. The partitions were pulled down and final touch ups were made after construction was complete, no damage had occurred and the dust was minimalized.

To incorporate more of the borrowed exhibits, a great emphasis in design was put on establishing a climate controlled area for these display areas that will never vary in temperature or humidity more than 2%. The design culminated in the new space appropriately named the Traveling Exhibit. One of the many showcase areas in the renovation, now has a new state-of-the-art mechanical system, which was built on top of the former 250-seat movie theatre equipped with concrete stadium seating elevations. In order to use this space, a structural deck had to be installed on top of the movie theatre flooring. The leveling of this area transformed an under utilized large movie theatre space in to 3,000 square foot of new exhibit spaces.

The modernization of the facility was also highlighted by new features such as a snack area, dividable glass partitions for maximizing uses of space and the completion of new ADA compliant bathrooms. Additionally, the renovation of some of the "old favorite" exhibits such as the coral reef, and a new theatre were incorporated.

The reef, which consists of a 12- by 3-foot x 3-inch sheet of glass, was engineered to support foot traffic. The glass was installed flush with the finished floor. The glass is sitting on a concrete vault inset in the floor and finished by the staff at the Museum with layers of real coral and common reef animals. "It is as though you are walking on water over a real reef", said one of the first to walk over the finished area.

The true success of this project cannot be based on dollars and cents or visitor turn stiles; instead it should be evaluated on a need for fulfillment. This building meets all of the parameters of a great project. The best is that between an owner, with relatively no experience in construction, hired a design team that developed a plan to fulfill their needs and hired a Construction Manager, through its emphasis on quality and detail, created a landmark for years to come.

DIV 07:
Metal Roofing: Petersen Tite-Loc Panels; Insulated Piedmont Skylight: Wasco.
DIV 08: Entrances & Storefronts: Kawneer; Glass: Oldcastle.
DIV 14: Elevators: KONE.

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